Managing Your Sales Leads: CRM (Nor Excel) Is Not the Answer

It’s clear that many companies do use technology to manage and nurture their sales leads., NetSuite, InfusionSoft, SalesLogix and other services are in the business of helping you nurture and manage your leads.
However, there are many companies (like yourselves) who still manage their leads with pencil and paper or Excel. These companies are definitely NOT being as productive as they can be and in fact are probably losing a lot of customers (or prospective customers) to their competition.
leads360.jpgLeads 360 provides a hosted service that lets you manage your in-bound leads and distribute them to the right person for follow up.
Jeff Solomon, founder and SVP of product and marketing, Leads360 helps us better understand the overall leads management process of growing businesses, in this Q&A
If businesses are not using a particular lead management technology, what are they using?
The truth is that many small businesses do not use any type of lead management or CRM application. For companies that have little or no marketing program (i.e., they get a few referrals a month or something like that), this may not have a huge impact. But most small businesses survive on leads and have some type of lead generation program. Whether they use Google Adwords or simply drive organic traffic to their website, chances are they are getting leads online. If they are, not having a system to manage those leads is a big mistake. Some companies try to get by on managing leads in Outlook or another email program; some try to use Excel. And a lot of small businesses manage leads on printed paper. None of these methods work well, in particular if the company has more than one person selling.

There are many sales management tools on the market, how can business owners know the difference between the various tools? How can they know which tools are best for them?
This is a great point, because there are so many solutions from which a company can choose. The biggest area of confusion is among CRM systems and related systems like lead management software. CRM has become a ubiquitous term and is often misunderstood. Small business owners who are looking to grow sales frequently start by evaluating CRM.
Of course CRM can help, but it can also cause more problems than it cures.
First and foremost, small business owners should get clear on what they are trying to achieve. The most common answer to this question is that they want to be more effective at converting leads and want to scale their sales and marketing efforts. Implementing a CRM system may help with this, but it also does a lot more and therefore is a lot of work to implement. (Search “why CRM fails” on Google to learn more.)
Lead management software, on the other hand, focuses exclusively on the tracking and converting of leads. It is designed to optimize sales processes, create accountability and consistency and make it easy to track performance of lead sources and sales people. Lead management is much easier to implement and typically less expensive than CRM. There are also many other categories of solutions available (marketing automation, sales force automation, etc.). The best advice is to start with the basics. Determine the most important area of the business that needs improvement, then find a tool that does just that. Additional tools can always be added later.
Beyond the technology what are some tips and/or strategies for better managing sales leads?

  • Create a consistent sales process – when everyone is working leads in a different way it’s impossible to see what is driving results and what isn’t.
  • Track performance of lead sources – the 80/20 (or maybe 90/10) rule applies, so probably a small amount of lead generation efforts are driving the bulk of sales.
  • Speed and persistence wins – respond to new leads quickly, follow-up frequently with emails and calls, and nurture leads that don’t convert immediately.

Is there a different strategy for converting and/or managing leads capture through a web site or blog (into a form) than those developed in person and face to face (such as at a networking event)?
When dealing with web leads, speed is the most important strategy. Research shows that calling new leads in less than one minute can increase conversion rates by more than 350%. For referrals or networking leads, speed is less critical because a relationship has already been developed to some extent. is the “grand daddy” of sales tools, what businesses should consider using them? Why? What businesses might want to look at something different? Why? does a lot of things. It’s a very sophisticated solution, which means it requires a lot to set up, to use and to maximize. Even if you keep it simple, most small businesses struggle to get the results they expected without a significant financial and resource investment. Another aspect of is that it’s designed to be everything to everyone. That’s the pitch. But sometimes small businesses need something a little more specific, maybe they even want something that is optimized for their industry or vertical. The most important thing is that a company should spend time thinking about its goals and then research the software that addresses those specific goals.
Is there a difference between sales management and contact management tools?
Yes. Sales management typically addresses the tracking and management of sales opportunities and funneling them toward conversion. Contact management typically provides a way to organize your company contacts, some of which may be hot sales opportunities; others may be networking contacts or others. Contact management usually has limited functionality related to the tracking and dispositioning of leads. If anything, contact management provides a way to take notes on a record, but it doesn’t provide a good way to track the sales funnel.